Ha. Way back in 1970 or so, someone should have told newbie director and pizza shop maven Tom Hanson that the Zodiac Killer has a far better chance to be caught alive during a screening of Dirty Harry than dead asleep at Hanson’s eyeball-rolling (yet pretty potent on occasion) The Zodiac Killer. While the film has some genuinely scary moments in replicating some of the more infamous murders, it’s also loaded with chuckle-worthy performances and a couple of hilarious made-up deaths that might have you choking on your popcorn.
Make no mistake, ladies and gents. This isn’t a “great” film by any means. But thanks to AGFA and Something Weird Video, we have a nice 4K restoration that still retains a certain grainy, grimy charm. Well, about as “charming” as you can get in a film explicitly meant to taunt and catch a notorious serial killer.
Tossing a few suspects at you right off the bat and getting a few murders onscreen within a few minutes, the film then gives away its target while also showing its other suspects getting caught up in some pretty crazy goings-on. Granted, at that time the police and newspapers had no clue as to who the real killer was, so Hanson’s film served in a crazed way as a brief hope that the killer would be lured in. According to the booklet packed with the film and an interview with the director, A few ploys were attempted such as loading up an ice cream freezer with “rent-a-cops” set to pounce, and a motorcycle giveaway using survey cards that were secretly being used to check for the killer’s signature handwriting style.
As for the kill count, it’s high… but so are some of the more outrageous murders not attributed to anything but the director’s imagination. Seeing the killer giddily jumping up and down on a car hood after convincing a stranded woman to stick herself under it was hilarious as was a visit to a rest home that’s not quite so restful for a few residents. That said, a few of the recreations are chilling to watch such as the Lake Berryessa attack from September 1969. With more money and time, I’d gather Hanson could have made more than a kooky exploitation half-comedy. But it is what it is, folks. Comedy ain’t pretty and horror is its crazy cousin five steps to the left jumping off a cliff.
The disc also includes a few nifty special features:
New 4K scan from the only surviving 16mm blow-up elements
Audio Commentary with director Tom Hanson and producer Manny Nedwick
On-camera interview with director Tom Hanson and producer Manny Nedwick
Liner notes and director Tom Hanson interview by Chris Poggiali of TEMPLE OF SCHLOCK
Tabloid-horror trailers from the AGFA archive!
As well as a freebie double feature in the form of Another Son of Sam, a truly crappy film that has zero relation to the infamous .44 Caliber killer and his crimes. That this 2K version exists at all is thanks to the AGFA/Something Weird team-up. Your jaw will drop and most likely stay dropped throughout this mess, but hey – you don’t often get a few bad movie that makes the main feature look like sheer brilliance for this price. Don’t say you weren’t warned, though. It’s kind of like finding an old stick of gum in a coat pocket and eating it despite it being stiff as a board and somewhat stale.
But hey – free is after all, FREE, correct?
Score: B+ (85%)
Review copy provided by the publisher